Much Ado About Shopping

Chick Lit and Samizdat in Saudi Arabia

Last year, a group of conservatives in Saudi Arabia filed a lawsuit against a book they declared to be "an outrage to the norms of Saudi society." The book was too controversial to be published in Arabia itself, but pirated copies were smuggled over the border from Lebanon or sold for hundreds of dollars online. The book's author received death threats and a petition circulated to strip her of her state scholarship to study in Chicago.

It's probably not a situation you'd associate with Bridget Jones, but the book in question is self-proclaimed "chick lit"—albeit with a very political bent. Rajaa Alsanea's first novel, Girls of Riyadh, was only released this month in English, but its 2005 debut in the Middle East sparked both a storm of controversy and a flurry of new literature in Arabia. For months after its publication, conservative Muslims condemned the novel as contravening Shariah law, calling for a government crackdown on its distribution. But the book's popularity continued to spread, even while some critics tried to dismiss its success as a product of Alsanea's feminine wiles: "Rajaa has the looks, and so even when the product, i.e. the novel, is bad it sells and is selling like hot cakes," one disgruntled man told Arab News.

Alsanea's looks don't explain the flurry of debate, news and editorializing it has provoked (reportedly over 250 articles): The Iranian organization Homan claimed that "al-Sanie's frank and sometimes shocking insight into the closed world of Saudi women is making waves," while London's Independent newspaper called it "revealing, hilarious and chilling in turn." It has even become the subject of litmus-test questions in job interviews, and Alsanea herself received a supportive call from the Saudi royal family.

Much ado about a book on the love lives, sex and shopping habits of four rich Saudi girls. A modern epistolary novel, it's written as a series of emails sent to a Yahoo! group list serve by a mysterious, lipstick-wearing Saudi woman. In another world, it would be a trivial lip gloss narrative of life as a desirable young woman in Riyadh. But such a story can't avoid being political—and it turns out that chick lit is a convenient vantage point from which to critique Saudi society. Alsanea explores Saudi values in all their mundane invasiveness; this is a world where possessing The Nutty Professor on DVD is a political act, inviting social disgrace. And beyond the picayune restrictions lies blatant hypocrisy: the Saudi elites enforce dressing conventions at home and happily change into chic Western attire on the plane out of Riyadh.

Details form the basis of Alsanea's careful criticism: In an atmosphere where every action is politicized, and where convention always trumps personal preference, human relations are reduced to envy and power play-which makes chick lit the ideal genre in which to discuss such problems. A friend's wedding is not just a celebration, but a political battleground. While one character, Sadeem, garners praise for her help in planning the party (a suitable wifely quality), the more liberal Michelle draws "sharp looks" for refusing to cover up when the men enter. In short, this feminine world is a one straight out of Mean Girls-backbiting gossip, jealousy and personal politics-only the stakes in Riyadh are higher. It's not a question of high school popularity, but marriage and lifelong prosperity. Yet the basic tools-handbags and husbands-are the same.

The prose stays mostly light, even gratingly so at times. Hushed-up nose jobs in Lebanon, makeup tips, modest robes tailored to show off curves and designer-label hijabs are all part of the bitchy game that decides a girl's future. And even once the thumbprint is on the marriage contract (women aren't allowed to sign), the woes aren't over: How long, for example, is it appropriate to make one's husband wait for sex? One night after the wedding? Seven? Which unspoken code of behavior might be governing his actions, and will he punish you if you're wrong? Navigating this maze of requirements could mean the different between divorce—and thereafter possible confinement to the house—and a tolerable lifestyle.

It's hardly surprising, then, that courtship often manifests as a materialist status race. Alsanea expects a lot of her guys: money, height, prestige, culture, Barry Manilow-singing teddy bears, diamonds on Valentines Day, affectionate notes stuck on the fridge, and so on. And from the weak-minded puppets of familial authority, to abusive cheaters and pathologically suspicious control-freaks, the guys always disappoint. Flirting, officially forbidden, struggles through a variety of tortured avenues-instant messaging, "numbering" girls through tinted windows (that is, publicly displaying one's cell number in the hopes of getting a call), and the occasional covert café meet-up.

Despite her criticisms, Alsanea is cautious, which is probably why her book has received much support as well as censure. None of the book's main characters ever truly defy their families; most instead find livable compromises. And Alsanea is a moderate when it comes to method; she says that change is unachievable without a degree of respect for tradition: "There are a lot of people who want change in Saudi Arabia but they're not succeeding," she told Newsweek, "because they're not going through the right channels, or they're not doing it gradually. They're just screaming, ‘We went this change and we want it now.'"

In that sense, Girls of Riyadh can seem disappointingly un-revolutionary. But it's a useful exposé of a social malaise—a community stranglehold so tight that it poisons individual relations and imbues personal decisions with intense social meaning. Which, to any Clueless fans, ("Why should I listen to you, anyway? You're a virgin who can't drive") makes chick lit a fitting place to start the discussion.

Juliet Samuel is reason's 2007 Burton Gray memorial intern.

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  • ||

    Despite her criticisms, Alsanea is cautious, which is probably why her book has received much support as well as censure. None of the book's main characters ever truly defy their families; most instead find livable compromises.

    I doubt she's being cautious, here. I think she's just being a Saudi girl. My best friend defied her parents (but not Islam) by marrying the man of her choice and has been disowned by her father.

    Defy your parents and you risk exile from everything and everyone you love.

    Our little world inside the company compound was a seaside heaven, but live in the Magic Kingdom beyond those security gates was hell on earth for anyone with a sense of freedom. The young people of KSA are horribly abused by tradition.

  • ||

    "The young people of KSA are horribly abused by tradition."

    Who isn't?

  • Fritz||

    Damn, when I saw that picture on the home page, for a second I thought it was Death in that store.

  • ||

    "Damn, when I saw that picture on the home page, for a second I thought it was Death in that store."

    It is.

  • Danny||

    I saw the same thing, Fritz.

    Reading this article, I almost feel lucky to have been born in America under my ultra-conservative mother as opposed a "normal" Saudi family.

  • ||

    "Alsanea explores Saudi values in all their mundane invasiveness; this is a world where possessing The Nutty Professor on DVD is a political act, inviting social disgrace."

    Possessing The Nutty Professor on DVD invites social disgrace in anyworld.

  • bill||

    "And beyond the picayune restrictions lies blatant hypocrisy: the Saudi elites enforce dressing conventions at home and happily change into chic Western attire on the plane out of Riyadh."

    I had always thought that the opposite was true. The Royal Family (Illuminati stooges that they are) was trying to liberalize things but the ordinary Saudi (man) likes the way things are and want them to stay that way.

    "Possessing The Nutty Professor on DVD invites social disgrace in anyworld."

    That depends, which version, Jerry or Eddie?

  • ||

    I had always thought that the opposite was true. The Royal Family (Illuminati stooges that they are) was trying to liberalize things but the ordinary Saudi (man) likes the way things are and want them to stay that way.


    The Arab mind is a strange thing. What the ordinary Saudi man thinks depends on who he's talking to and when. It's also possible for a Saudi ruler to at the same time drink and bang infidel whores in Sweeden but think that a life under Islam is the only way and reinforce restrictions on his subjects.

    Also, the royal family is not a monolithic group. There are liberals and conservatives in competing departments and ministries.

  • Jennifer||

    Typical hypocrisy: it's good enough for me, but not good enough for the little people. No different from the disparities between the drug conviction of Bush's niece versus a person who isn't related to the president, really.

    What a heartbreaking article that was, though.

  • iih||

    Grand Chalupa:

    The Arab mind is a strange thing. What the ordinary Saudi man thinks depends on who he's talking to and when.

    Oh how nice of you to say so! And, is it only "the ordinary Saudi man" whose thinking "depends on who he's talking to and when", or is it the general ordinary Arab man?

    Also, the royal family is not a monolithic group. There are liberals and conservatives in competing departments and ministries.

    Actually I agree with you. But so are Arabs and the ordinary Saudi men on the streets. They are not a monolithic group.

  • iih||

    Jennifer:

    What a heartbreaking article that was.

    I agree, but one has to remember that there is actually some women (actually many) who wear and behave in ways people in the West may find offensive out of choice and not out of compulsion. But overall you are correct, there is a level of hypocrisy, injustice and a true lack of freedom to choose in KSA.

  • ||

    Actually I agree with you. But so are Arabs and the ordinary Saudi men on the streets. They are not a monolithic group.

    While true, there are certain patterns of thoughts and a worldview, alien to our culture, that one who has spent time with Arabs sees. If one wants to understand Arab culture or politics one has to make certain generalizations and not assume that on average they see the universe in the same way that most of us do.

  • iih||

    If one wants to understand Arab culture or politics one has to make certain generalizations

    On the contrary, one does not understand a culture by averaging and generalizing. That is the very mistake much of the Arab street makes in assessing and understanding America. To many of them America is Bush and Bush is America. They are tempted to label all Americans as uniformly pro-Bush, and we all know that that is not true. It is easy to generalize, but it is infinitely more useful to not to do so.

    One understands a culture by studying its spectrum, no matter how seemingly narrow that spectrum may be. The Saudi cultural spectrum may seem narrow, but there indeed a spectrum Understanding that spectrum and working with it from within is the hope for change.

    But what I see in some of the comments is that all Arab culture spectrum is narrow and monolithic. Egyptian society far more diverse and liberal than Saudi culture. Lebanese culture is infinitely more diverse and the spectrum is quite complex.

  • ||

    Yes, yes, study the spectrum.

    The narrowness or width of the spectrum of opinions and feelings also varies by culture. Arabic culture is one of the narrower ones.

  • ||

    iih, I don't recall whether you've ever mentioned from which Arab state you claim heritage... but I know you and I are familiar with the same things.

    One thing I've been told by many Arabs is that Saudis see themselves as Arab, but Arabs see Saudis as Saudis. They are a breed unto their own, so to speak. It's a good thing they have Mecca and Medina or they'd be left out to dry by all their Arab neighbors, I think.

    The Saudi royals aren't the ones enforcing sharia law, guys. It's the muttaween who do that. And just as in any religion, there are the hypocrites and the adherents. When the Bahrain causeway opened up, it was crowded with carsfull of Saudis - they'd drive across, buy their booze and their sexy couture, then drive back with the booze stowed away and the couture hidden under abayas. The guards at the crossing never (that I saw) stopped the Saudis but they always stopped the Western expats.

    Unless the muttaween were around, of course.

    Mark - Yes, we're all somewhat abused by tradition, but some traditions are far more abusive and frightening than others.

  • iih||

    Chalupa:

    Arabic culture is one of the narrower ones.

    Justify what you say.

  • iih||

    Bronwyn:

    I don't recall whether you've ever mentioned from which Arab state you claim heritage.

    Egypt.

    And you do make excellent points. I hope no one perceived that I am claiming that there is no hypocrisy. Oh, yes, indeed there is -- and lots of it. But generalizing and belittling the rich Middle Eastern culture is a cheap shot. That cheap shot was not made in the article. In fact, I found the article very interesting. It is some of the generalizations made in the comments what I found disturbing.

  • iih||

    Chalupa:

    Have you ever been to Lebanon? Cairo? Alexandria? Pre-Gulf-war Baghdad? Tunis?

    Have you heard of the legacy of Arabic/Islamic prose? Probably most known is the West is the Sufi literature, with its love prose, mysticism? Now the fact that their literary and scientific production is low does not mean they are somehow genetically incompetent, or that their outlook or belief system is deficient. It is a modern deficiency, but it is in no way a fundamental trait of "Arabs".

  • ||

    iih - No, if you'd claimed there was no hypocrisy, you'd be a Saudi.

    *grins*

    I hope someday to visit some of the more "normal" Arab and Islamic states... Bahrain and Kuwait were as close to normal as I ever got over there, and after '91 Kuwait slid backwards and Bahrain, well, Bahrain got Michael Jackson.

    ick

    I would love to see Dubai and to tour north Africa.

  • iih||

    Bronwyn:

    They are quite different -- not Europe of course, but they certainly have something to offer.

    Oh, and yes, Egyptian expatriates in KSA are not having a lot of fun. There is a lot of discrimination against, not only them, but against most if not all non-Western expatriates. Have you watched Syriana? I think the picture they paint of poor Southeast Asian expats is very close to reality, from what I have heard. I think Egyptians there are generally better off.

  • iih||

    Chalupa:

    You also have to realize that Arab nations have been facing a lot of challenges sine the late 1800s. They have their hands full. Sometimes the West does not help in the process, but they have a lot to get busy with.

    Oh, btw, if we were now in dark ages Europe and generalize and average as you wish to do with Arabs, we would have pronounced the Europeans pretty much dead. But look where the West is today? Just give "Arabs" a chance.

  • ||

    iih,

    Your too sensitive. That's another Arab quality. :). Wa anna min ausal Arabee kaman, so I speak from experience.

    Justify what you say.

    Well, if you want one specific example I saw a poll that said 99% of those asked in Jordan said they believed in God. I doubt you'd get 99% agreement on anything in America.

    Also, I'm sure your familiar with this conversation when a dinner guest is about to leave.

    Host: Don't leave yet!

    Guest: No, no, I need to get going.

    Host: But it's still early!

    This doesn't have an equivalent in western cultures.

    To repeat my point, Arabs are not a monolithic group but in general have a more uniform woldview than Westerns do. This may be true of all conservative cultures.

    Oh, btw, if we were now in dark ages Europe and generalize and average as you wish to do with Arabs, we would have pronounced the Europeans pretty much dead. But look where the West is today? Just give "Arabs" a chance.

    So if they follow the European model in 500 years Arabs may be leading the world. But for our lifetimes, from what I know about Middle Eastern culture, psychology, society, economics and politics I don't see meaningful positive changes. In fact, things will probably get a lot worse.

  • iih||

    Chalupa:

    Your too sensitive. That's another Arab quality. :)

    Okay, then most Arabs are sensitive, and...


    Well, if you want one specific example I saw a poll that said 99% of those asked in Jordan said they believed in God. I doubt you'd get 99% agreement on anything in America.

    then most Arabs believe in God. But these are very basic qualities. How does this imply cultural narrowness?

    This I call consensus. Even if Arabs did have a consensus on almost every single issue (which is far from true), how does this undermine their, or the promise of their, ability to have a diverse outlook. You can not enforce diversity of outlook on a people.

    To repeat my point, Arabs are not a monolithic group but in general have a more uniform woldview than Westerns do. This may be true of all conservative cultures.

    And I do not see a trouble with that, unless, say, they are all for something evil. If that ever happens, I would be the first to disavow of my Arab heritage. But I won't. You know why? Because I truly believe that Arabs/Muslims are not inherently all about oppression of women, the destruction of Israel, or hate of America. This is the perspective of Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda (how many? 20,000, 40,000 people, though estimates put them less than 20,000 - this is a minute percentage of Arabs and Muslims combined) and people in the West who harbor ill-will for Muslims and Arabs.

    But as far as the general Arab population is concerned, they do not believe in the backward/destructive world view of OBL and Al-Qaeda, nor that which right-wingers and neocons wish to label them with.

    Most Arabs and Muslims wish to have a good life, have families and raise children in safety and prosperity. They are struggling to meet that perspective. But they will figure it out with time and once they achieve that basic goal, they will then start considering views that may result in a diverse outlook (though again I insist that they already have very diverse world-views-- just look at Lebanon).

    ... I don't see meaningful positive changes. In fact, things will probably get a lot worse.

    I think that you do not want to see change. And I also think that you wish it to get worse. While I do not think that it will take 500 years as you say, even if it did take that long, I am willing to wait. And I, and many many other people of good will in the ME and the West, will do our best to improve things, even if it meant a uniform world view - as long as it is good in the wide sense of the word. Time will prove it.

  • iih||

  • ||

    iih,

    You know the radicalism isn't just on the fringes of Arabic society, its pretty mainstream. Check any poll taken in the middle east. The results of some of them taken in America or Britain are often even scarier.

    I understand your racial pride and am glad that you seem to accept the ideals of a liberal society and don't blame the West for the problems in the middle east. Still, I don't see any facts that back up your optimism. Policy makers and the voting public need to make decisions with a clear head. As I tell my liberal friends, unjustified optimism can sometimes be more harmful than malice.

  • iih||

    unjustified optimism can sometimes be more harmful than malice.

    But so is unjustified pessimism.

    You know the radicalism isn't just on the fringes of Arabic society, its pretty mainstream.

    Absolutely not true. Give me examples or proof.

    The results of some of them taken in America or Britain are often even scarier.

    You are correct about England, but not America. I know which poll you are referring to regarding American youth Muslims, at face-value it is scary (and is worthy of studying its consequences and how to contain the tentative threat to America), but it is often misinterpreted.

  • bruce majors||

    "Florence of Arabia" is one of Chris Buckley's funniest novels

  • ||

    Absolutely not true. Give me examples or proof.

    How bout the fact that EVERY ELECTION that has happened in the middle east in the last ten years has increased the power of theocrats? Hamas, Hezoballah, the Shiites in Iraq, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Not every Muslim needs to be a card carrying terrorist in order to bring down a society. If only 5% are passive supporters of jihad you've got a pretty big problem. When jihadis are winning elections, your society is fucked.

    I'm reminded of the Bush adminstration before the Iraq war. They saw Allawi and Chalbi, western educated, secular men, and thought they were representative of the Iraqi people. They went into the country and found that on the ground it was Al-Sadr who had the support and the manpower. When it comes to grassroots political activism or the willingness to fight in the streets its been shown time and time again that religious extremists have the most passive and active support.

    I don't know how blind you have to be not to be able to see this. Where is your evidence that there is hope in our lifetime that the middle east will move in a liberal direction?

    As you said before...

    But so is unjustified pessimism.

    My pessimism is justified, your optimism is not. And it was optimism, not pessimism, about the Arab people that pushed for elections in Iraq and Palestine and brought the Shiite theocrats and Hamas into power. Living in a fantasy world about international relations is not a harmless vice. Hayek in the Road to Serfdom wrote about how socialists paved the way for the rise of Hitler and today Arabic liberals are paving the road to power for the Islamists.

  • iih||

    All I'll say is that in none of the elections you mention has there been a landslide. And which election did Hizbollah win?

    You also seem to (willfully?) ignore the fact that there are a lot of reform movements in the Middle East. Kifaya (just to name one) in Egypt, the Anti-Syrian, Harriri-led movement in Lebanon, progressive movements in KSA, Kuwait and other Gulf states. Look at the progressiveness of Dubai (while it is not identical to Western progress, but at least you have to acknowledge that Dubai is becoming one of the most prosperous and open minded parts of the Middle and Far East). You are either ignorant of these movements or willfully ignore them.

    Let me ask you, what should the West do about the Middle East and the danger its governments and peoples pose since their outlook seems so inferior to Western ideals? Let me guess -- nuke them? That is a rhetorical question, you do not have to answer. Even if you do, I will not care to answer because...

    I did a quick internet search for "looniremich". Returned was a few entries posted on TNR. If it is you, then I understand which angle you are coming from. If it is you, and I think that it is, I won't even waste my time trying to argue with you, because no matter what I say and no matter what the facts on the ground are, you seem to have one objective only -- exemplified by likening Arab liberal movements to socialist Nazism as you do above. Let me ask you. Do you consider modern-day socialist Western countries like Canada, Scandinavian nations, Switzerland and socialist movements in the US Nazi? Not to defend socialism, but conservatism, capitalism, communism, practically any socio-political philosophy can be as destructive as socialist Nazism -- and there is proof in history (may be not yet for capitalism). It is human stupidity that causes utter destruction once it converts a philosophy into a blind ideological doctrine.

  • ||

    All I'll say is that in none of the elections you mention has there been a landslide.

    That's not what you said at all.

    I said that extremism in the middle east is mainstream. You replied with...

    Absolutely not true. Give me examples or proof.

    I made my point by showing the success of the extremists in election. If you're winning elections, your movement is mainstream.

    Straighten out your own head before you go searching around for all my opinions.

    This is an interesting debating tactic you have. I say that extremist movements have mainstream support. You respond by saying they don't. I show they win elections and you say its not a landslide. If this is the way you debate there's no way you'll ever lose as long as there is one liberal Arab.

  • atrevete||

    Host: Don't leave yet!

    Guest: No, no, I need to get going.

    Host: But it's still early!

    This doesn't have an equivalent in western cultures.


    HAH!! Try any Latin American country.

  • iih||

    I would hope that anyone check my last post and tell me if my thinking is not straightened out.

    Though I said I won't respond. "increasing the power of theocrats" does not equal "theocratic rule". MBH in Egypt and HA in Lebanon are minority in the parliaments, which implies that the majority is not for these movements. Why do you insist on ignoring this simple fact? In fact MBH has no members in ruling government! You also ignore the fact that Hamas had a slight majority in the Parliament and hence had to come up with a coalition government. Again you are hung up on the fact that Hamas one a minor majority and completely ignore the fact that there is only a slight minority of Palestinians that do not support Hamas. Does this make all Palestinians pro-Hamas? Does that make all-Egyptians pro-MBH, or all Lebanese pro-HA?

    But that is it for me. No more wasting time with you.

  • atrevete||

    iih

    Your input is fascinating! You would LOVE my Lebanese uncle in Venezuela!

    Have you seen "Destiny" - movie about Averoes, one of my heroes. Bringing back "Incoherence of 'Incoherence'" would do wonders for Arabic culture - or any culture for that matter.

    Also, I don't see why Islamic culture is not considered "western".

  • iih||

    atrevete:

    "Incoherence of 'Incoherence'"... :-) Thank you atrevete... I hope the spirit of "Incoherence of 'Incoherence'" would be revived in Middle Eastern cultures. And I do admit that it is lacking nowadays.

    Also, I don't see why Islamic culture is not considered "western".

    It extends from the medieval times, a simple hate and fear of the "other".

  • iih||

    Regarding what I say:

    "It extends from the medieval times, a simple hate and fear of the "other"."

    That does not mean that there aren't extreme groups in the Middle East that are violent and backward and have very little in common with Western ideals. What I have problem with is (willful?) ignorants like Chalupa who wish to paint the entire Middle East and Muslim nations with the stroke of extremism and incompatibility with Western ideals.

  • iih||

    Simply put, the likes of Chalupa wish to abort the birth of hope in Middle Eastern cultures and I wonder why they possess such hatred for them and the prospect of their prosperity.

  • iih||

    altrevete:

    "Incoherence of 'Incoherence'".... Actually I am trying to remember the Arabic title but it skips me now. Do you happen to know it?

  • iih||

    Google: "tahafut al-tahafut"

    Another great quote from a Muslim Arab philosopher: "My view is correct but may be wrong. My opponent's view is wrong but may be correct." This is the standard norm with which Arab and Muslim philosophers and politicians used to debate. Compare this to the rhetoric portrayed by Chalupa (and his right-wing friends and neo-con idols): "We are right no matter what and everyone else is wrong" and "You are either with us or against us". Just look at the political discourse in the US. There is really no political center anymore.

  • iih||

    Destiny:

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000031VPJ/reasonmagazineA/

    Yes, atrevete, now I know what you were referring to. Great movie indeed.

  • atrevete||

    I think I have the Arabic title written down on lecture notes somewhere but I'm SURE it's misspelled anyway. I understand Averoes wrote itin response to another philosopher's treatise "Incoherence of Reason" was it? At any rate, Averoes was persecuted and his library burned by the rival thinkers fanatics.

    My point is that when reason is undermined, for example also in "postmodernism" in 20th Century European thinking, all religion and culture is undermined and the consequences start to manifest themselves in political and social institutions.

  • iih||

    Interestingly, Destiny is ranked 45th in Amazon's "Video > Action & Adventure > Widescreen" category.

  • iih||

    I think I have the Arabic title written down on lecture notes somewhere but I'm SURE it's misspelled anyway. I understand Averoes wrote itin response to another philosopher's treatise "Incoherence of Reason" was it? At any rate, Averoes was persecuted and his library burned by the rival thinkers fanatics.

    "Incoherence of the 'Incoherence'" was in response to Al-Ghazali's "Incoherence of the Philosophers". Both excellent philosophical treatises. Though it was not the supporters of Ghazali who persecuted Averoes. Those were religious fanatics. Ghazali himself is one of the greatest thinkers of his time and never resorted to violence to eliminate opponents.

  • iih||

    For those interested in Arab/Muslim heritage and, possibly, the proof that there is hope:

    On Al-Ghazali:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Ghazali

    On Averoes:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Averoes

    Avicenna:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avecina

    Ibn al-Haythem:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibn_al-Haitham

    Al-Khawarizmi:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Khawarizmi

    Modern day:

    Ahmed El-Baz:

    http://www.bu.edu/remotesensing/Faculty/El-Baz/FEBbio.html

    Ahmed Zewail:

    http://www.zewail.caltech.edu/

    Naguib Mahfouz:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naguib_Mahfouz

    And the list goes on...

  • atrevete||

    Well, THAT'S good to know! I think what I was trying to point out is that if we are going to talk about the "Arab mind" that it is based on the same philosophies as the "European mind" or the "American mind", at any rate, much closer than the "Japanese mind" or "Chinese mind" that we seem to be able to have dialogue with nowadays.

    The principles of the Enlightenment are not at all foreign to the Arab mind, in fact to assert that one needs a certain kind of mind to grasp these principles, itself contradicts the Enlightenment spirit.

  • iih||

    Well, THAT'S good to know! I think what I was trying to point out is that if we are going to talk about the "Arab mind" that it is based on the same philosophies as the "European mind" or the "American mind", at any rate, much closer than the "Japanese mind" or "Chinese mind" that we seem to be able to have dialogue with nowadays.

    Very good points. But also the truth on the ground is that there are a lot of challenges facing the Arab/Muslim mind. They certainly fall way behind the "Asian" mind nowadays.

    The principles of the Enlightenment are not at all foreign to the Arab mind, in fact to assert that one needs a certain kind of mind to grasp these principles, itself contradicts the Enlightenment spirit.

    Couldn't agree more. And that is what I call "well founded hope".

  • ||

    Jesus Christ, I thought Muslims didn't drink?

    Forget it, you'll respond by telling me that all Muslims aren't the same and start defending Arabic poetry for some reason.

    For the third or fourth time, the beginning argument that started this all was whether extremist movements are "mainstream." Not if they are approved of by ALL Muslims or even a vast majority. You've lost that debate.

    This "I'm morally superior than you because I have my head in the clouds" argument is what I expect from hippies and sensitive women, not something fit for a libertarian site.

  • iih||

    Jesus Christ, I thought Muslims didn't drink?

    Muslims are not supposed to drink just as Jews aren't supposed to eat pork. Your point being?

    the beginning argument that started this all was whether extremist movements are "mainstream." Not if they are approved of by ALL Muslims or even a vast majority.

    This statement sounds self-contradictory. How are they "mainstream" and at the same time "not approved of by... even the vast majority"? Huh? They are somehow mainstream but not approved of by the "majority"?

    This "I'm morally superior than you because I have my head in the clouds" argument is what I expect from hippies and sensitive women, not something fit for a libertarian site.

    Best defense of the weak is name-calling. And, yes, I am a peace-loving, intellectual Libertarian.

  • iih||

    So Chalupa:

    what do you suggest we do about the "narrow outlook" and inferiority of the Arab/Muslim world view? May be.... hmmm... eliminate it?

    I would also like to point out that you have not responded to my response to your attack on Arab liberals and liberalism, and your comparing them to Socialist Nazism.

  • ||

    This statement sounds self-contradictory. How are they "mainstream" and at the same time "not approved of by... even the vast majority"? Huh? They are somehow mainstream but not approved of by the "majority"?



    Mainstream simply means something not on the fringes of society. They have support. If I say "Hillary Clinton is a mainstream candidate" it doesn't mean the vast majority of Americans support Hillary Clinton. She's an acceptable candidate occuping a spot on the spectrum of what the vast majority of Americans believe. Hamas or Hezoballah have similar positions in their societies. That makes them "mainstream".

    As I said before...

    Not every Muslim needs to be a card carrying terrorist in order to bring down a society. If only 5% are passive supporters of jihad you've got a pretty big problem. When jihadis are winning elections, your society is fucked.

  • ||

    Here's the definition of mainstream from yahoo dictionary. Their example is exactly how I use the term.

    NOUN:

    The prevailing current of thought, influence, or activity: "You need not accept the nominee's ideology, only be able to locate it in the American mainstream" (Charles Krauthammer).

  • atrevete||

    Was the Ku Klux Klan mainstream, then? How about the Irish Republican Army?

  • ||

    The closest analogy to the Saudi Wahhibist beliefs in Christian Civilization -- from which our political system and many belief systems hail like it or not, is the Puritan Protestant belief system. This return to strict beliefs and social control -- that has enveloped the KSA --- is bust understood in this context. Imagine if the Puritans had built an army -- conquered the colonies and spread their theocracy? What would the answer be to overcome their power? To help actively push for change without destroying the culture and beliefs that people want to have? Questions -- many questions -- but no answers quite yet.

  • R Hampton||

    Five Bahrainis released from Guantanamo Bay may each soon receive a 50,000 Bahraini Dinar grant (US $132,500) from the government. MP Mohammed Khalid said it is crucial the men receive compensation for the suffering and torture they were forced to endure in the US prison camp and so they are able to financially support their families ... Juma Al Dossary, who has dual Bahraini-Saudi nationality, was also among a group of 16 Saudis freed and transferred to Riyadh last month. "Look at what the government of Saudi Arabia has given Juma - a car, monthly allowance, help to find a job and to get married.
    -- Geoffrey Bew, The Gulf Daily News

    I track our "ally" Saudi Arabia and their three decades-long, global expansion of militant, extremist Wahhabi Islam.
    http://wahaudi.blogspot.com

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